An enchanting beginning to the festive season with community choir …
River Voice Community Choir is taking on a new challenge for its Christmas Concert this year. The performance is a big step change for the choir in that, apart from the congregational hymns, every piece will be performed a cappella – there will be no musical accompaniment.
Many choirs shrink from singing without accompaniment as it can leave singers feeling very vulnerable and subject to pitching problems. Additional funding received this term from the Red Nose Foundation enabled the choir to have extra rehearsal sessions, which supported members in the development of stronger aural and vocal skills across the group.
The choir aim to make music accessible to everyone and have a number of visually impaired members who take an active role in the group, including Choir Chair, Claire J Frewin, who explains: “We learn orally if we can’t access the score, as we are still able to hear what’s written. It’s actually a very quick way of learning as it’s relative straight away. I do try and look at the music when I can, but my head will be down using my magnifier and it’s much better for your posture to be standing upright and singing out. So automatically it’s better for learning, speed of learning, for posture and projection.”
Fellow visually impaired choir member, Michelle Bunce added: “I wasn’t sure choir singing would be my thing, but I’ve learnt so much, it’s been amazing, I didn’t go to the first rehearsal with many expectations and I can’t explain why it gripped me; a combination I think, of the people and the passion, and the interaction. Tania makes the difficult things easy, almost, dare I say it. Although we look at it and think, yeah, that’s really hard, she encourages you to have a go. She’s given me a lot more confidence in singing – she sorted out my breathing. I had no idea how to breath or anything. I love the camaraderie; we have so much fun doing it and it makes the learning easy. I can feel how I’ve improved my singing and my confidence generally.”
Musical Director, Tania Holland, says: “The idea for a choir that would cater for people with and without visual impairment emerged following a large scale community opera project called Element Beyond Gravity.
“This was a new work devised specifically in response to Chatham Historic Dockyard and which brought together singers from across North Kent including a number of people with low or no vision.
“At the end of this project it was clear that many people taking part were keen to continue to make music together. So I applied to Medway Council for a small grant to trial a new singing group that would be accessible to all adults, regardless of ability to read music, and out of this short project a small group of singers went on to form the nucleus of the choir and to themselves lead the group into its current not-for-profit community group status.”
The concert will take place on Saturday, December 5 at 3.30pm in the St.George’s Centre, Dock Road, Chatham. Entry is free, although donations to help sustain the choir would be welcome – there will also be a raffle and refreshments.